The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News are both running stories that the new First Presidency will be announced Monday morning, 11:00 a.m. MST in the lobby of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.  So far nothing appears on the Church’s website confirming this announcement; however, it appears they have issued some type of press release to the media.  A Soft Answer also has a good post on this announcement with some excellent links included. (Update 2/4/08) The Church Website on its main page at LDS.org now has an announcement of the press conference.

The Salt Lake Tribune, from Peggy Fletcher Stack has the better coverage at the moment:

If Mormon tradition holds, the LDS Church at 11 a.m. Monday will name Thomas S. Monson the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   He succeeds Gordon B. Hinckley, who died Jan. 27 at 97, because Monson is the longest serving member of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

That part is not a surprise. What is still in question is who Monson will choose to elevate into the governing three-man First Presidency. The speculation about who will name at a press conference to take place in the Church Administration Building has already begun.

Yes, likely the only surprise will be, the new counselors.  If I had to guess–and of course it’s only the wildest of speculation, I would say Elder Eyring stays as a counselor, and Elder Oaks is named as the other counselor.  I have no idea who would be which.

Ms. Stack notes for the record, as if we needed any such noting, that the only real rule is that the new President and Presidency can’t be any women:

 There is only one rule for choosing a member of the First Presidency: no women. Other than that, the choice is wide open, but selections tend toward men who already have proven their worth as church leaders. It’s usually a lifetime position, so Mormon presidents are not willing to take many risks. Most counselors were apostles, a group of men whose place in the seniority is determined by the day they were appointed to the Quorum.

Ok, well, there are a couple of other rules too.  They must be members of the Church, and a couple of others.  But, true to her feminist sympathies, Ms. Stack had to make the gender point, which is fine–but she also neglected to mention some very obvious ones as well.

That aside, Ms. Stack agrees with my analysis on Elder Eyring, and then goes through other scenarios for the other counselor:

It would be highly unusual if he didn’t retain Henry B. Eyring, second counselor under Hinckley. But the next three men in line – Boyd K. Packer, 83, L. Tom Perry, 85, and Russell M. Nelson, 83 – are all older than Monson, who is 80. He could pick Packer as a way of preparing him to be president someday. Some argue Monson should skip the first three apostles and pick Dallin H. Oaks, who is 75, reasoning that he is young enough to have a chance at the office.

But maybe Monson will move down in seniority a step farther to M. Russell Ballard, 79, because they both were mission presidents in Toronto, are extroverts and reportedly are good friends.

An always popular choice would be Jeffrey R. Holland, 66, a former president of Brigham Young University who spent two years in Chile learning how to manage rapid growth and the cultural challenges facing South American Mormons.

If he wants even more youthful energy in the presidency, Monson could tap David Bednar, who is 55. What Bednar, former president of BYU-Idaho, lacks in experience, he could make up in enthusiasm and good health. And if he wanted to send the message of a worldwide Mormon community, he could bring in the charismatic German apostle, Dieter Uchtdorf, 67. Monson may have a soft spot for Germans because he negotiated with government officials to build a temple in Freiberg, Germany while it was behind the Iron Curtain.

The interesting thing is that the new counselors do not need to be apostles.  She then outlines several possibilities including wild card billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr., or (Heaven FORBID) a sitting General Authority who (Gasp) is also a democrat, Elder Marlin Jensen:

However, the rules do not require Monson to choose a sitting apostle.  President Heber J. Grant, who governed from 1918 to 1945, sidestepped the church’s hierarchy altogether in his 1933 appointment of J. Reuben Clark as his second counselor. Although Clark, as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, was one of the church’s most prominent members, he had not served a proselytizing mission, nor had he ever been a bishop or stake president.

In that same vein, Monson could choose Bishop David Burton, the “presiding bishop,” who has directed the church’s renovation efforts in downtown Salt Lake City.  If he wanted to maintain a connection to the Democrats, he could tap Marlin Jensen, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy who serves as the LDS Church historian. Jensen, a lifelong Democrat, was among those who represented the church on the recent PBS documentary, “The Mormons.”

For a total wildcard, Monson could choose his fishing buddy, billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr.  Monson is likely to name his counselor at the same time his own presidency is announced. If he does choose a counselor from the Quorum, that will create another opening among the Twelve. Then Mormons will begin a new round of guessing.

And, my guess, is that guess we will.  Regardless, this is a fascinating process and a great learning one as well.  I wish the new Presidency well in their future endeavors governing Christ’s Kingdom on earth.  What happens Monday in Salt Lake City, is of far greater import than what will take place across the nation on Tuesday when Rome chooses its would be successors for a new Caesar.

KSL

CBS News 60 Minutes Interview with President Hinckley

Video of the Hinckley 60 Minutes Interview